Emergency Management: PREPARE!
Preparation is a critical factor in success for emergency management. Being prepared can often reduce the damage caused by an emergency condition or situation. It will often reduce the frequency of emergency situations as well. Let’s look at some key factors in preparation: Planning, Budgeting, and Training.
Planning involves thinking about the potential emergency conditions/situations and what we can do to minimize the probability of them happening or mitigating the impacts of the situation. This is often a difficult exercise, as we tend to go down the rabbit hole of possible emergencies. The key is here to keep the focus on some general planning, then narrow to specific. For example, you might start with an emergency communications plan before moving on to the communications necessary for a specific emergency. The next step in planning is to walk through the emergency response and identify any weaknesses or holes in the plan. Further steps then include taking action to improve on those weak areas, which might also lead to planning to improve those weaknesses over time. This puts you into a continuous improvement loop – which is exactly where you want to be.
An extension of planning is budgeting. We need to ensure that we budget the funds for our emergency responses, and we manage those funds appropriately. In most cases, we are not starting from nothing, so look for small improvements we can make over time. This keeps us in the continuous improvement loop while having generally minimal impact on any budget year. Quite often, there is emergency funding to cover operations and responses to emergency. Part of being prepared is that we do not rely solely on those funds being available. Instead, we budget the necessary improvements over time, so that additional emergency funds are minimized and are focused in the areas that are absolutely needed, not just as part of the expected response and management of the emergency. Annual funds are limited for most of us, with competing priorities. We need to look for balance – where can we find some funds to improve readiness, reduce both the probability and impact of emergencies, and still fund normal operations, plus overall improvements. Going back to the idea of small improvements made over time will help – look for improvement actions that you can do now that don’t take a lot of money to do. That is usually a good place to start.
All that planning and budgeting is great, however, it will be wasted at the time of the emergency without proper training to go along with it. We must first train our staff to our procedures for the emergency. Be open to ideas for improvements – then make them! And train again. Remember the continuous improvement loop: train, improve, train. In addition to training, we must practice the actual emergencies. This allows us to put into practice the training, as well as all that planning. With training and practice, we communicate the expectations we have during an emergency. It has been said, “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.” Which is why training is so critical to being prepared for an emergency